The Healthy Nudge
Welcome to The Healthy Nudge . Each month, we'll get you up to speed on the latest developments in policy-relevant health behavioral economics research at CHIBE. Want more frequent updates? Follow us on Twitter @PennCHIBE and visit our website .
A Cost-Effective Method to Boost Medication Adherence: Mailed Reminders
A new CHIBE study published in Preventive Medicine found that mailed reminders, especially interactive ones, modestly improved medication adherence. This effect persisted even after the reminders stopped. The authors suggest that reminders may be an inexpensive supplement to other medication adherence programs.
Behaviorally-Informed Vaccination Policy
CHIBE Associate Director Dr. Alison Buttenheim offers four key behavioral principles relevant to state exemption legislation in a recent article for the Behavioral Scientist. This year, 17 states have considered more than 40 changes to their vaccine exemption laws.
Roybal Pilot Study: Can Financial Incentives Increase Exercise Among New Gym Members?
"One of the takeaways from this study is that future interventions aimed at closing the gap between intended and actual behavior among new [gym] members may need to be based on a better understanding of both their overconfidence and the rapid decline of their visit rate."
Blog Spotlight
In a recent blog post, Christina Roberto, PhD, outlines a four-step method to facilitate effective communication and collaboration between change agents and scientists to promote evidence-based policies.
Work-in-Progress Seminar:
The Ethics of 21st Century Medication Adherence Monitoring
09/14 @ 12 PM
104 Stellar-Chance
In The News
Smart Pill Bottles Aren't Always Enough To Help The Medicine Go Down

People Don’t Exercise Much More Even If You Pay Them to Go to the Gym

Are Simple Behavioral Interventions Cost Effective?

Putting Digital Health Monitoring Tools to the Test

The Scientists Who Shape What and How We Eat

NYC Calorie Rule Scrutinized in Courts of Law, and Science

To Save a Bundle, These
Payments Need To Change

Moving Beyond Nudges to Improve Health and Health Care Policies

They Offered to Pay People to Go to the Gym. Guess What Happened?
 CHIBE Profile
This month, CHIBE welcomes new Associate Director Harsha Thirumurthy, PhD to the University of Pennsylvania as an Associate Professor in the Division of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine. Harsha joins us from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health, where he focused on health behavior change in low-income settings.
Describe your main research interests. What are some current projects?
I am interested in applying ideas from economics and psychology to develop interventions that can improve population health outcomes. Much of my recent research has focused on behavioral aspects of biomedical interventions, an issue that is salient in many areas of public health. For example, despite a growing toolkit of promising biomedical interventions to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, lower-than-desired uptake of and adherence to these interventions stand in the way of further reducing new HIV infections globally. My current projects use randomized trial designs to assess whether we can achieve changes in health behavior through low-cost strategies such as the provision of financial and non-financial incentives as well as the use of mobile phones and other technologies. These projects occur in partnership with implementing organizations in several countries in Africa and South Asia and typically involve collaborations with physicians and social scientists. A separate strand of my research uses experimental and non-experimental methods to evaluate the health and economic impacts of major health programs.

In your opinion, what has been one of the most valuable applications of behavioral science in the field of public health?
In conversations with public health researchers and practitioners, I have been struck by the interest in economic interventions to address a wide range of public health challenges. The idea that low-cost incentives can bring about changes in health behaviors that have large downstream consequences underscores the value of developing interventions based on various behavioral science principles, including present bias. Though not universally successful, incentive-based interventions have had a positive impact in many studies and even been scaled-up in some countries. In low-income countries, it remains to be seen whether public health gains can also be achieved through a related approach of providing unconditional cash transfers to alleviate poverty and potentially to improve decision-making.

What do you find most rewarding about your work? 
Collaborating with organizations around the world that are actively engaged in service delivery and jointly devising – and also testing – solutions to problems they face is really the most satisfying part of doing this research. This makes it possible to have an impact on health outcomes at the local level (and sometimes well beyond that), but on a personal level it also provides opportunities for exchanging ideas with and learning from individuals with very different backgrounds and perspectives.
New Publications

The Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) at the University of Pennsylvania conducts behavioral economics research aimed at reducing the disease burden from major U.S. public health problems. Originally founded within the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics , our mission is to inform health policy, improve healthcare delivery and increase healthy behavior.
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